Posted tagged ‘what happens to people’

Worries/Recriminations in Thrissur, Kerala

April 18, 2013





We are currently staying at the best hotel in Thrissur, a small city in central Kerala. It lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Let’s call it, freshness.

We have come for elephants –there is an elephant festival here in a couple of days–and the air conditioner in our room– it is about 100 degrees and muggy outside–has a definite rumble.

Thrissur was an odd choice. The actual festival is known for an intense jam of people, heat, and elephants (sometimes running amuck), so we thought we’d give it a miss.

On the other hand, we also thought it might be Interesting to see elephants being prepared for the festival.

We know that they will likely be mistreated. We could have gone to some kind of elephant park instead possibly– maybe even have washed elephants. It would be pretty cool to wash an elephant. But we worried that those elephants might also be mistreated (subtly) and that by paying to wash them we might be complicit in their mistreatment.

Is it better to be where there are no pretenses of sanctuary?

And what if they were actually kind to the elephants at the washing place?

We go through these questions again and again. But part of the whole calculus had to do with heat and logistics. It would have been very difficult to get to the elephant washing place at elephant washing time. And so we didn’t. And now we are here.

One of the advantages of traveling with somewhat open-ended plans is that you have endless things to fret about and regret. When you travel with another person, you can also re-miscommunicate all prior miscommunications as to who wanted to do what and who wanted to please whom. There really are many different ways of passing time.


And now we have passed time, and after miscommunications not with each other but with several rickshaw drivers, we have located elephants. This was after being led several blocks by a man with bare feet of leather (or iron) –it is super hot–from the big temple where the festival is planned to a smaller temple where three elephants were stationed in the back yard. (The ones for the festival are not here yet.). Only one elephant was touchable– the other two dangerous–and truly, touching the tamer one was unutterably sad.

There were comic elements to our adventures today, which I may relate when I am not on the iPhone, but finding the elephant was not one of these. On the way to find him we went through a large temple park– mainly surfaced with dirt– where many very poor men in orange lungis were squatting on the ground digging holes to hold some kind of posts or scaffolding for the upcoming festival. One can’t expect great treatment for elephants in a place where humans are also not treated so well. Though it is easier somehow, as a Westerner, to block out the plights of some of the humans here. Do we anthropomorphize the elephants more than the human? Or is it because the elephant is in a situation that is so clearly against its will and nature? (Chained.). Or is one simply overwhelmed by the numbers again. (We had to look for elephants–people are everywhere.)

Anyway, back in the room now hoping for some freshness by turning off the AC.

I can’t post very big pics without wifi– but there’s our room, a waiter in an Indian Coffee house (part of an old chain where we snacked), the workers and the elephant. I may repost more or these in bigger scale when we get wifi again. Tomorrow.

PS. In case you missed and are interested I posted early this morning pictures I quite like of tea pickers in Munnar.